The past Oscar nominee felt a little more free to talk about immigration reform.
“If I could change one thing, it’s for people not to look at us as if we have come to this country to take, because we have come to this country and built this country in many ways,” she said of Latino immigrants. “I wonder if [critics of reform efforts] would be willing to pay for the price of what the food would cost if we all left.”
It’s Hispanic Heritage Month, so the multiple awards galas must go on. But the government shutdown thinned the very top of the VIP guest list for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s celebration, where Hayek was awarded a Medallion of Excellence in the Arts and Entertainment.
The White House sent regrets on behalf of President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, who had said they would attend. The president has shown up for the annual affair four of the past five years (including once as a presidential candidate). At least two Cabinet members also bailed, including Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, according to an institute spokesman.
Nevertheless, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and a long list of other members of Congress joined the audience of more than 2,000 for an event that was a party with a purpose.
“This is about Latino youth,” said Scott Gunderson Rosa, a spokesman for the institute. “We’re investing in the future. We can’t stop what we’re doing because of a government shutdown.”
The institute is the nonprofit arm of the Hispanic Caucus, and the awards ceremony is a fundraiser for leadership programs designed for young people.
“Here in Washington, the government may be shut down, but our concerns and our issues are not shut down,” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said.
Speaking to the packed ballroom, Hayek dedicated her award to immigrants who have “risked their lives in order to search for a brighter future,” to Hispanic women, “especially single mothers,” and to the young, undocumented immigrants known as “Dreamers” who are brought to the United States as children — who, she said, “are the true inspiration for all of us.”
She was accompanied by her father, Sami Hayek, and brother Sami Jr. She was cited for her work as an actress (“Frida,” “Desperado”), a producer (TV’s “Ugly Betty”) and a director (“The Maldonado Miracle”), as well as for her many social crusades — so many that in an earlier interview, she had difficulty deciding which to elaborate on.
“I never thought that you need to pick [just] one cause,” she said. “I have always thought that you had to do all you can.”